Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reminder to Self...

How to Avoid Misunderstanding

  • The first is active listening. The goal of active listening, they say, is to understand your opponent as well as you understand yourself. Pay close attention to what the other side is saying. Ask the opponent to clarify or repeat anything that is unclear or seems unreasonable (maybe it isn't, but you are interpreting it wrong). Attempt to repeat their case, as they have presented it, back to them. This shows that you are listening (which suggests that you care what they have to say) and that you understand what they have said. It does not indicate that you agree with what they said, nor do you have to. You just need to indicate that you do understand them.
  • Fisher and Ury's second rule is to speak directly to your opponent. This is not considered appropriate in some cultures, but when permitted, it helps to increase understanding. Avoid being distracted by others, or by other things going on in the same room. Focus on what you have to say, and on saying it in a way that your opponent can understand.
  • Their third rule is to speak about yourself, not about your opponent. Describe your own feelings and perceptions, rather than focusing on your opponent's motives, misdeeds, or failings. By saying, "I felt let down," rather than "You broke your promise," you will convey the same information, in a way that does not provoke a defensive or hostile reaction from your opponent. This is often referred to as using "I-statements" or "I-messages," rather than "you-messages." You-messages suggest blame, and encourage the recipient to deny wrongdoing or to blame in return. I-messages simply state a problem, without blaming someone for it. This makes it easier for the other side to help solve the problem, without having to admit they were wrong.
  • Fisher and Ury's fourth rule is "speak for a purpose." Too much communication can be counterproductive, they warn. Before you make a significant statement, pause and consider what you want to communicate, why you want to communicate that, and how you can do it in the clearest possible way.


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